You read about it all the time—the writer who wrote her entire novel in stolen bits of time. In the car while her kids were at gymnastics class. In the early morning, before anyone else was up, when the day was only hers. While waiting at the doctor’s office. In a coffee shop between meetings. You read it all the time—a page a day equals a novel a year. Seems easy enough, right? So why aren’t we all writing that novel a year?
Three things come to mind to me. For me. Perfectionism, pressure, and procrastination. We all have different reasons why we don’t write. These are three of mine. I am a wild perfectionist. If I can’t do something right, I’d prefer not to do it at all. Either the house is sparkling clean or there are, as my husband calls them, explosions everywhere. Either I read the book in three days or I don’t pick it up at all. It’s exhausting, really. I believe I MUST commit to four hours a day of writing. It’s unreasonable. Sometimes we don’t have hours. I build it up, you know, convince myself I am not a real writer unless I have a structured writing schedule and produce 1,000 words a day. And then there’s Pressure which is Perfectionism’s evil cousin. I must finish the story. I must finish the story and it must be the best story I’ve ever written. I must write something meaningful, beautiful, touching. I must finish this novel by May. If I don’t finish it by May, then I’ve failed. Pressure. The stress of it breaks you down and then you Procrastinate. You procrastinate because how can one possible be capable of all this? It’s just too much and the task is too daunting so you empty the dishwasher instead. You do other work, work that could have waited. You call people. Hello, hello, you say, you ask them what they’re doing, what they’re eating, if they’ll come save you from your misery.
We all have walls, you know? We all have our things. Whatever they are, we can’t let them get in the way of our goals. Procrastinating, for me, is draining. William James said: “Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task.” It’s so true. The weight of it in your mind, the project you so badly want to complete, and know you can complete. There’s that blank screen staring at you, a reminder of the undone. And then suddenly you are a big fat failure. You didn’t write today, yesterday, or the day before. It’s too late. Forget it. You’ll never write again. And while all this is highly dramatic, there is one truth: That there are a million ways to lose a work day, but not a single way to get those days back.
I’ve realized these things about myself. I’ve realized those three Ps are going to try and stand in my way. And by realizing it, understanding it, I win half the battle I think. We have good days, bad days. My best friend said this to me over coffee and egg and cheeses the other morning: I am finally able to appreciate the ebbs and flows of life.I, too, am trying to appreciate, embrace, the ebbs and flows of a writing life. Some days we write well. Other days we just write. And so my ongoing mantra has become this: Ten minutes of writing is something. Bad writing is something. Something is better than nothing.
And it gets easier. Thank goodness. You write for ten minutes and suddenly you’re into it, you’re rolling, going, inspired. You want to write more and realize how easy it is once you just get started.
I also plan to buy a new notebook, something I can carry around with me so I can catch some words on the page during those stolen bits of time.
Writers write. Butt in chair. It’s that simple.
What are your walls? Your things? What keeps you from writing?
“Action and reaction, ebb and flow, trial and error, change- this is the rhythm of living. Out of our overconfidence, fear; out of our fear, clearer vision, fresh hope. And out of hope, progress.”
photo credit: UniverityNinja